When I was 14 years old, I took part in the Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition in Salt Lake City. It was the very first time for me to fly to the USA and perform in an "international" piano competition. I was much inspired and encouraged by the other competitors as well as the jury members throughout the competition.
At that time, I had a passion for music and piano, but I was doing many other things (baseball, track and field, student council and of course, playing with other kids and watching TV!). And my family lived in a condo, where I could play piano until 9p.m.. So the time I spent for the piano practicing was about 2 hours per day, even before coming to the competition.
On the first day of the competition, I was shocked to know that the other contestants (age 14 to 18) were going to play something extremely difficult like Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Liszt's Dante Sonata, Mephist Waltz, Dutilleux's Sonata, Barber's Sonata, etc. And everything I was going to play was shorter than 10 minutes like Liszt/ Waldesrauschen, Schumann/ Aufschwung, Debussy/ Reflet dans l'eau...I even played Poulenc's Novelette No.1, which is a 3 minutes-long easy pretty piece!
So, I immediately thought "I should not have come here!" and didn't even think that I could advance to the final. But I did miracles! I was selected as one of the 12 finalists, and even awarded the 6th prize.
It was so hard for me and my mother to believe this result that we needed to ask each member of juror, why I could win the prize! One of the jury members said "I loved your Poulenc, it was purely beautiful. I also enjoyed the joy of playing music you showed us through your performance!".
Since then the Poulenc's Novelette No.1 has been my favorite and very important piece, and I've never forgotten the importance of the "joy of playing music" at every performance. Also, I started seriously thinking of becoming a professional pianist and working harder. So, it was a very important exprience in my life.
Now I came back to Salt Lake City to take part in the Gina Bachauer Artists Piano Competition (age 19 to 32), and have just been selected as one of the 6 finalists last night!
I'm going to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto on Wednesday June 30th (approx.7:40p.m.in SLC time) with the Utah Symphony and Maestro Lawrence L. Smith, with whom I played Beethoven 3rd in Oregon in the Summer 2004. I realized that this is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Schumann, since it's still in the month of his birthday (June 8th)!
What an honor and how exciting!!!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
June 8th is Robert Schumann's birthday, so there were some special events in Berlin yesterday. But I had to work hard and was too tired to go out afterwards, so I stayed home and celebrated it modestly, listening to one of my favorite CDs of Schumann piano music, which is the recording of my former teacher in Paris, Mr.Bruno Rigutto.
I discovered this CD soon after I started studying with him at the Paris Conservatoire. At that time I was a teanager and had difficulty adjusting myself to the life in Paris because of the lack of my language ability and general knowledge about the life. When I listened to this CD, my heart was so profoundly touched by the emotional playing and the rich and warm sound of Mr.Rigutto that I couldn't help but cry... At the next lesson, I brought him the CD and asked for his autograph. Unexpectedly, he wrote me such a encouraging word; "Pour Kotaro, Magnifique pianiste, très Artiste!" (To Kotaro, magnificent pianist, very artist!) So, this CD has been really one of my treasures!
Bruno Riguto, Schumann, Lyrinx label
(Harmonia mundi distribution)
Schumann/ Variations sur un thème de Clara Wieck Op.14, Fantasie Op.17, Arabesque Op.18, Scène d'enfants Op.15, two transcriptions of his Lieder; Frühlingsnacht and Liebeslied (arranged by Franz Liszt).
I especially like his programming and his way of transitioning from one piece to another. It's really fantastic!
Bravo and thank you very much, Mr.Rigutto and Mr. Schumann!